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Like Florida in springtime, AOPA's 'Challenge' heats upLike Florida in springtime, AOPA's 'Challenge' heats up

Through the first two rounds of voting in AOPA's Favorite Aircraft Challenge, we've seen some powerful entrants cut down their opponents in massive blowouts, while other contests were won by the thinnest of margins. The action has brought out the vote from many types of aviation fans trying to push their favorite flying machines through to the finals on April 1 and 2.

As the general aviation world thaws out this week at the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-in and Expo, the voting action also heats up in the challenge. To begin the week, 16 fantastic aircraft will match up in Round Three action before the eight winners of those contests square off later in the week. With so many pilots meeting in Lakeland, Fla., in the coming days, you can be assured one topic of conversation will be the challenge's matchups, with heated debates about which aircraft will be the 2012 AOPA 'Favorite Aircraft' champion.

Let's take a preview look at what's coming your way this week:

Voting is open March 26 in the East Region, where the mighty P-51 Mustang tries to eliminate the formidable King Air, while the airplane of choice for so many aviators—the popular Cessna 172 Skyhawk—will need to get out the Kansas vote to advance against the F4U Corsair. Voting in the Southeast Region is also open today, where the Mooney M20 will have an uphill battle against the iconic Piper J-3 Cub. Also in the Southeast is going to be a gigantic battle between two very popular biplanes, with the luscious “ahead of its time” Beech Staggerwing facing the historic military and airshow reputation of the Stearman PT-17.

On March 27, more Round Three action takes place with matchups from the Southwest Region, where the Beechcraft Bonanza will need finesse and strength to advance by taking down the tough-as-nails Cessna 208 Caravan. Another great contest here has the capable Cessna 210 in the fight of its life facing the unstoppable Douglas DC-3. To conclude voting on Tuesday, the West Region will find two very interesting matchups, with odds-makers having a “pick 'em” on their hands predicting the Cessna 182 Skylane versus T-6 Texan contest. No less exciting is the hard-working Piper PA-18 Super Cub trying to take down the tenacious de Havilland Beaver for what many are saying will be Alaskan bush flying bragging rights.

By mid-week, Sun 'n Fun will be in full swing, and after a break in voting on March 28, a very big day for the challenge comes on March 29 when the eight remaining aircraft compete to try to remain alive to earn one of four elusive spots in the semi-finals slated for March 30 and 31.

Dan Pimentel, an instrument-rated private pilot who has racked up more than 400 hours in 16 years of flying, is also an aviation author and writes the Airplanista Aviation Blog.

Topics: Aviation Industry, Sun n Fun, Events

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